One of my first inklings that the world was a lot more complicated and horrible and unfair than I had been lead to believe was when I read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
It was forbidden in my house growing up to read anything so controversial. Books were prescreened by my mother and this was never allowed past her censor. So, I finally picked it up when I started college. I think I blew through it in a day, I just could not put it down.
Maybe I should be sad about Maya Angelou passing today, but I am not. She was an incredibly wise and gifted woman and she was able to accomplish so much in her lifetime despite suffering and oppression. She died today with dignity and grace and the knowledge that she rose above what anyone else other than her own herself expected of her. That is much more than any of the rest of us can hope for.
I am grateful that her words will live on, giving ignorant white girls like me some small sliver of….I want to say understanding but that is not right. I can never understand. I can’t even really know. I have never had to live these things.
Maybe I should say instead that I am grateful that she opened my mind to the existence of alternate realities? It helped me understand that my own silly experiences and how they allowed me to interpret the world around me in such a limited way did not make my interpretations truth for anyone else. I shudder to think of who I would be if I had not been able to finally read that book and then all of the other books that came after.
Thank you, Dr. Angelou. Rest in peace.